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Last week, Lorraine Mitchelmore, the top Canadian executive for Royal Dutch Shell, broke with industry narrative, stating that “the argument for environmentalism is not an emotional argument. It is just as rational as the argument for growing our energy industry.”
There is an important underlying realization in Mitchelmore’s statement that some conservative pundits, as well as our own government, seem to willfully miss. Sustainability — smart environmental decision-making — has everything to do with prosperity. It has everything to do with people’s jobs and their quality of life, with the opportunities they want for their kids. It is, in fact, the rational decision to carefully steward, protect, and invest in the natural capital on which our communities and future livelihoods depend.
What is dangerously irrational is making decisions based on short-term economic pay-offs that we know will undermine our future prosperity, perhaps catastrophically.
This is exactly what the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline threatens to do. Our government is apparently determined to move unprocessed diluted bitumen by tanker through the Great Bear Sea, which by Environment Canada’s own assessment, is one of the most treacherous sea passages in the world. No one can guarantee that there will not be an accident. Indeed, given the extremely dangerous waters of the Hecate Strait, it is rational to argue that an accident is simply a matter of time. And as two recent reports point out — one commissioned by the Province of B.C. and the other by the Federal government — Canada is woefully ill-prepared to deal with an oil spill in these waters.
What is at risk is very clear. Just talk to the people who live in this region, and they will tell you. It’s their jobs — the fishing and tourism industries — and their cultural identity. And it’s the spectacular ecosystem upon which all of that depends. A place that is as unique a global treasure as the Great Barrier Reef or the Amazon rainforest. It is no wonder that so many Canadians exercised their democratic rights by participating in the review process for this project. More than 9,500 people wrote to the Joint Review Panel, 96 per cent against the pipeline. The overwhelming majority of the 1,000+ people who provided oral testimony were also opposed. There is no question that the concerns raised by this project are the legitimate concerns of Canadians who value their livelihoods.
The real question is why we would take such a huge risk in such a special place.
If the answer is “to defend jobs”, it is misguided and misleading. More jobs will be destroyed by an oil spill than will be created by Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. Coastal First Nations’ traditional territories and coastal communities depend economically on the Great Bear Sea. Marine-dependent activities in these territories represent significant economic value. B.C. seafood and tidal recreational fishing generate $2.5 billion per year – and support more than 30,000 jobs. Exporting raw, unprocessed bitumen creates far more jobs outside Canada than it does here.
It is also irrational to repeat mistakes that we now have the knowledge and ability to avoid.
A generation ago, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and foundered, off the coast of Alaska. The resulting oil spill was an ecological, economic and social disaster that crippled coastal communities and deprived a generation of its livelihoods. The loss of the herring fishery alone cost the economy $400 million. Many communities have not yet fully recovered. In fact, some never will.
It’s a fate that we have the power to prevent in the Great Bear region, by pragmatically acknowledging that the risks of this proposed oil pipeline outweigh the benefits.
Yes, the argument for environmentalism is a rational one. For the people whose lives would be destroyed by an oil spill, it is also an emotional one. And for Canada, particularly at this moment, it is the one that will determine our future as global leader or laggard.
This article originally appeared in the Financial Post on Dec. 17, 2013
Authored by Guy Haselmann of Scotiabank,
FED – Encouraging the Melt-Up Trade, While Regulating Bubbles Away
The Fed moved ‘all-in’ in 2008/09 when it pushed rates to zero and embarked on QE. Since the Fed basically used its final chips via this action, it became trapped playing ‘this hand’ until the bitter end. The stakes are enormous and grow over time. The only way the Fed can ‘win’ is – as Yellen said today – “to do everything possible to promote a very strong recovery”. Tapering too soon could be calamitous toward this objective. Yet, the longer it continues, the more the risks aggregate. However, Yellen seemed to calmly indicate today that any unintended consequences or dangers to financial stability are worth the risk.
There is an inability, and lack of good options, for providing any additional monetary or fiscal accommodation, should the economy weaken or should a global crisis arise. This is what makes the Fed’s current policy experiment such a high-stakes experiment. Here is why policy-makers are in such a predicament:
Every economic or business cycle decline over the past three decades has been met with the same response: monetary or fiscal stimulus. Policy makers have been quick to offer accommodation, but they have been slow to withdraw the stimulus which is always politically more difficult.
Fiscal accommodation over the years has resulted in large deficits and debt which are now leading to contentious discussion about how to reel them in.
Monetary authorities have stair-stepped the Fed Funds Rate down, but eventually hit zero and ran out of room.
Effectively, both stimulatory mechanisms are broken.
Yellen had to field several questions about potential market bubbles, but she deflected them aggressively saying that she did not believe that “bubble-like conditions” existed. Whether she believes that or not, it would have been counter-productive for her to admit it. She mentioned that should bubbles begin to form, the Fed has the regulatory tools to control them. She can’t possibly believe this (or can she); but regardless, she must try to convince the market that the Fed is monitoring them and can contain them.
Basically, she has given the market the green light to “melt-up”. The only question is how much higher will the Fed’s ‘gift’ drive prices? She indicated the Fed has no choice but to continue with this policy until it succeeds (or will it ultimately fail?).
As perverse as this seems, Yellen likely ensured that an equity market crash (someday) is inevitable. Yellen’s failure to acknowledge any signs of bubble-like conditions encourages more risk-taking and speculation. Therefore, this fact, combined with her hints of a continuation of policy, should lead to a bubble; if one hasn’t been created already. And, all bubbles eventually pop.
Alternatively, it is possible that Fed policy fails and economic growth begins to slip. In this scenario, a significant re-pricing (lower) of financial assets would occur.
Since banks are in a much stronger position today than in 2008, the Fed probably has limited concern about a market crash – as long as the banking system remains healthy. The Fed probably doubts a crash could be as bad as 2008, and it know it know possesses a slew of liquidity facilities (established in 2008) which could be implemented quickly if necessary.
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand